Las Vegas gets second Cup date in 2018; New Hampshire loses a Cup date

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Las Vegas Motor Speedway will host two NASCAR tripleheaders next year, the track announced Wednesday.

Speedway Motorsports Inc., is moving a Cup date from New Hampshire Motor Speedway to Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Las Vegas Motor Speedway will have the Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Trucks for both its spring and fall events in 2018. The Cup and Truck races will come from New Hampshire. The Xfinity race will come from the standalone event at Kentucky Speedway.

New Hampshire will retain its July Cup weekend.

Las Vegas’ fall race weekend will be announced at a later date by NASCAR but is expected to take place in the third or fourth weekend of September (what had been New Hampshire’s spot).

Marcus Smith, chief executive officer and president of SMI, said the move is best for the sport.

“Over time it’s something that we thought about,” Smith said of the moving dates. “This became the right time.

“It’s a matter of all the great things for the whole sport of NASCAR to be coming to Las Vegas, a city that has worldwide renown and attention and draw. I think from a NASCAR perspective to have a tripleheader weekend in the fall of the season is going to be a tremendous positive for the whole sport.”

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority will pay $17.5 million — $2.5 million a year for seven years —  in a sponsorship agreement with the track. The Convention and Visitors Authority will pay a $1 million sponsorship fee for the spring race and $1 million sponsorship fee for the fall race. The Convention and Visitors Authority also will contribute $500,000 to a marketing fund.

The contract goes through 2024 and can be extended for three years at the same rate.

Drivers attending Wednesday’s announcement were Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Brendan Gaughan, Noah Gragson and Spencer Gallagher.

WHY IS THIS HAPPENING? Money, money, money. Vegas has more of it than New Hampshire does. Simply, this makes business sense. Las Vegas is expected to have higher attendance than New Hampshire has had. New Hampshire also was held back by an agreement with local residents agreeing not to hold night races at the track. That came about after those residents filed a civil lawsuit against the track years ago. The track also has wanted the two-lane road leading to the facility widened but the state hasn’t done so.

HOW DOES THIS MOVE IMPACT THE SPORT? It gives NASCAR the chance to alter the playoff schedule next year. While it is most likely that Las Vegas slips into New Hampshire’s spot in September, there’s another way to look at it. Why not move it back later in the playoffs and create a West Coast swing at the end? One idea would be to have the season end with Las Vegas, Phoenix and Miami. That’s just one option, but this opens the door to changes — if NASCAR will do so.

WHAT’S POSITIVE ABOUT THIS CHANGE? For the sport, it is better to have two dates at Las Vegas in that they will be further apart than what New Hampshire’s dates are. Las Vegas is the hot town in sports with the NHL moving there and the Oakland  Raiders looking to move there in the near future. The belief is it will help raise the sport by being in Las Vegas.

WHAT’S NEGATIVE ABOUT THIS CHANGE? NASCAR adds another 1.5-mile speedway to the schedule and possibly the playoffs. That would mean there could be five 1.5-mile tracks among the 10 playoff races next year with Las Vegas replacing New Hampshire and Charlotte using the infield road course with its oval for its playoff race. Move also won’t be popular with Northeast racing fans or fans who like the racing at the 1-mile track even with Marcus Smith saying they plan to create a special modified weekend in that September slot. 

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Joey Logano holds off Aric Almirola for Martinsville pole

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Led by defending NASCAR Cup Series champion and pole sitter Joey Logano, Fords dominated qualifying, capturing the four top spots for Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

Logano covered the .526-mile oval with a speed of 97.830 mph, earning the 21st pole of his Cup career — with five of those now coming at Martinsville.

“You just have to be so precise and pushing yourself so hard in the corners, and a mistake is such a penalty,” Logano told Fox Sports 1. “It was awesome to get another pole here at Martinsville and hopefully we can top it off with … another win in the books.”

Aric Almirola was second fastest (97.643 mph), followed by Brad Keselowski (97.458), Kevin Harvick (97.832), Denny Hamlin (97.362), William Byron (97.202), Kyle Larson (97.098), Chase Elliott (97.053), Martin Truex Jr. (97.018), Daniel Suarez (96.830), Clint Bowyer (96.706) and Jimmie Johnson (96.573).

It appeared as if Almirola might take the pole, but Logano overtook him with just 34 seconds remaining in the final round.

“I just barely missed it by a little bit, and that’s all it takes,” Almirola told FS1. “We came up close, but just not enough.”

Kyle Busch failed to advance to the final round of qualifying. He’ll take the green flag Sunday from the 14th position in the 1,000th overall NASCAR start of his career. Just before Cup qualifying, Busch won the 201st race of his NASCAR career in the Truck Series race.

We’ll have the full qualifying grid and starting lineup shortly. Please check back soon.

NOTES:

* The starting lineup is provisional until Sunday morning’s pre-race inspection. Any car that fails inspection will lose its starting spot and move to the back of the field.

* Daniel Suarez was penalized for speeding on pit road during the third and final round. He had to make another qualifying run, as a result.

* Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s first qualifying attempt was disallowed for speeding on pit road. He came back on-track to try again before the session expired, but could go no faster than 25th, failing to advance to the second round. “I didn’t feel I was going that fast (on pit road),” Stenhouse Jr. told Fox Sports 1. “Either way, our first or second time wasn’t good enough to make it. Definitely not the qualifying effort we wanted.”

* Cody Ware and Cory LaJoie did not make qualifying attempts, having to work on their race cars after being involved in wrecks during Saturday’s practice sessions.

* Sunday’s STP 500 (500 laps/263 miles) will take the green flag shortly after 2 p.m. ET (Fox Sports 1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

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Kyle Busch dominates en route to Truck win at Martinsville

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Less than a week after earning his 200th career NASCAR win, Kyle Busch began working on his next 200, capturing Saturday’s TruNorth Global 250 Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway.

Busch dominated the 32-truck event, leading 174 of the 250 laps around the .526-mile paper-clip shaped oval, winning under caution after Reid Wilson spun on the final lap. It was Busch’s third Truck start and win of 2019 – he also won at Atlanta and Las Vegas – and the 54th of his career.

Busch has two more Truck races left on his schedule this year (NASCAR limits full-time Cup drivers to a maximum of five starts in the Truck Series per year): Texas next Friday and Charlotte in May. If he wins those two races, he will have won all five this year and six in a row dating back to his last Truck start of 2018 at Pocono.

What’s more, Busch now has seven wins in 11 starts across all three NASCAR series thus far this season. He goes for career win No. 202 when he makes his 1,000th career NASCAR start in Sunday’s STP 500 NASCAR Cup race.

“We made wholesale changes to this thing all weekend long, to make it faster,” Busch told Fox Sports. “We had enough tire at the end to hold them off.”

Ben Rhodes finished second, followed by Brett Moffitt, Ross Chastain, pole sitter Stewart Friesen, Myatt Snider, Grant Enfinger, Matt Crafton, Johnny Sauter and Bubba Wallace.

“We just needed a little something more, we got beat by the best in the business,” Rhodes said of Busch to Fox Sports. “Overall, it was a good, happy day. We’ve got some momentum going and we go on to the next race and see if we can beat him the next time.”

Click here for full results.

Click here for updated point standings.

The only significant caution of note in the race occurred with eight laps to go in the first stage, when the No. 12 Chevrolet of Gus Dean went up in flames – possibly from an oil fire. He was uninjured.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Kyle Busch

STAGE 2 WINNER: Ross Chastain

WHAT’S NEXT: Vankor 350, March 29 at 9 p.m. ET, Texas Motor Speedway.

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Chase Elliott leads Hendrick Chevy sweep of top three in final practice

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MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Chase Elliott paced the final Cup practice Saturday at Martinsville Speedway, turning a 97.542 mph lap on the 0.526-mile oval.

Teammate Alex Bowman was second fastest, and Jimmie Johnson made it a sweep of the top three speeds for Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets, which have been winless since Elliott’s win last October at Kansas Speedway..

Austin Dillon and Paul Menard rounded out the top five in the 50-minute session.

The rest of the top 10 were comprised of Ty Dillon, Daniel Hemric, Kevin Harvick, Erik Jones (the highest-ranked Toyota) and Martin Truex Jr.

Clint Bowyer, who won at Martinsville a year ago, was fastest in the first practice Saturday morning when Chris Buescher was the fastest Chevy in seventh.

The practice ended under a red flag after a crash for Cody Ware.

Qualifying for the STP 500 will be at 5:10 p.m. on FS1.

Click here for speeds during the final practice at Martinsville.

Friesen tops Kyle Busch to take pole for Martinsville truck race

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Stewart Friesen outdueled Kyle Busch to gain the pole for this afternoon’s TruNorth Global 250 Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway.

Friesen covered the 0.526-mile, paper clip-shaped oval with a speed at 96.465 mph. It’s the third career pole in the Truck Series for the Canadian driver.

“Our Chevy was fast, we made a couple small air pressure adjustments and a little bit of track bar there for the last round, and it held up,” Friesen told FS1. “They pay the money at the end of the race, though. That’s what we’re concerned about now.”

Friesen will be seeking his first career Truck Series win in today’s race.

Busch was second fastest at 96.366 mph.

“Overnight, we made a ton of changes,” Busch told FS1. “Hopefully, we can get this Tundra to where we want it to be and where it’ll be good on the long runs. Long runs are going to be important.

“It’s going to be all about track position and staying out front and seeing what we can get. It was a top-five truck yesterday. Hopefully, it’ll be a top-three truck now.”

Busch, who earned his 200th career NASCAR victory last Sunday at Fontana, California, will be making his 10th career start in a truck at Martinsville. He has one win (March 2016), five top fives and six top-10 finishes at the track.

Todd Gilliland (96.249 mph) was third fastest, followed by Sheldon Creed (96.200), Brett Moffitt (96.180) and Matt Crafton (96.132).

The rest of the top 12 qualifiers were: Raphael Lessard (96.083), Johnny Sauter (96.015), Austin Hill (95.550), Ross Chastain (95.468), Derek Kraus (95.266) and Austin Dillon (95.165).

Click here for the full qualifying results.

Today’s 250-lap/131-mile race will take the green flag shortly after 2 p.m. ET (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

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